Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Alternative Medicine: Testing

Dreamstime stock photo - source

I always thought that if I went to an alternative medicine practitioner, the testing they did on me would be something weird - like finding the amount of chi in my body or something.  I never thought they would be testing something normal, like hormones and food allergies.  But that's just what they did.

When I first got to the clinic in Atlanta, I went in to talk with the Osteopathic doctor.  He took a full medical history.  Now keep in mind those principles I told you about in the last post.  This doctor is looking at me holistically, meaning he looks at everything that is wrong with me, not just at abdominal pain.  So, literally, we talked about every medical condition I have had as well as all surgeries I've had and the current problems I am having.  He also did a brief exam, but he was focused more on the history than the exam.

After all that (about 45 minutes), he determined a whole bunch of tests that he wanted to run - thyroid function, adrenal function, food allergy panel, heavy metal screening, etc.  There were a lot.  In true doctor fashion, he said he had no clue how much any of that would cost me, he "just orders" them.

Then comes the fun part...they send in their financial advocate.  She tells me the whopping total for all those tests the doctor "just orders" - $11,000.  (Mouth drops open.)  Yeah, that was my response too.  But...after my insurance comes into play...and after the "special deal" they offer to their patients...the total came down to a much more reasonable amount.  Still a lot, but doable.  Because, believe me, $11,000 is NOT doable.

Tim and I talked and agreed to go ahead with the testing.  So they sent me to the lab to drain me of all my blood.  Not really, but they took over 10 vials of blood.  They kept having to retie the tourniquet tighter to keep it flowing.  I had to fast for this visit and this was about lunchtime, so I was starving and having all my blood taken out...I wasn't very nice.  You probably didn't want to be around me at that point.

Then they did this test to see what my stomach acid levels were like.  They had me swallow this capsule with a little camera-like thing on it.  They put a big box on my stomach that hung around my neck.  The box talked to the computer and to the little capsule which was measuring my stomach acid levels.  Next was the fun part.  I got to swallow a squirt of baking soda and water - tasted nasty!  Why baking soda?  As the tech told me (the tech who had a thick accent and sounded just like Count Dracula), they know the ph of baking soda so they can easily measure the ph in my stomach and see how long it takes it to bring the ph back to normal.

As if that wasn't enough, after that test was done they loaded me up with take home tests - everything from saliva tests to urine collection to stool samples (and yes, I think this is the first time in my life I have typed out the word "urine").  All those fun things get to be done at home and mailed back to a lab.  They want to use those to measure levels over time.  For instance, for the saliva test, they measure adrenal function and hormone levels over the course of a day.  Four times during the day from the time I wake up until 11 at night, I chew on a cotton plug then put it back in a test tube with the time written on it.  Then I stick all 4 tubes in an envelope and mail those back.  Some of the other tests are a lot more detailed and a lot more gross, so I won't go into detail here.  Needless to say, you need to be glad you aren't doing them.  They aren't fun.

We are hoping and praying that all of this extensive testing will give us some answers.  I have been impressed with the detail this clinic has shown.  No other doctor has ever looked at my hormone levels or my vitamin levels.  No other doctor has spent 45 minutes in the same room as me.  Yes, some of these tests are high up there on the ick scale but when we are done we should have a very detailed look at my biochemistry.  If there are things out of whack that we can fix, then maybe it will make me feel better.  That's the goal anyway.

Later I'll tell you about the diet (not for weight loss) and the nutritional supplement portion of the visit.  Stay tuned.

Did you miss the first post in this series?  You can  find it here.

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